Resource Magazine November/December 2014 : Page 5

... Feed the World in 2050 ix months ago, while mulling over their morning coffee in the café at the University of Illinois Center for Genomic Biology, an agricultural engineer and a plant geneticist envisioned a cross-soci-ety magazine on the theme “Feed the World in 2050.” This special publication would combine ASABE’s Resource with CSA News , the member magazine for the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America. Letters went out (“You have been selected as a potential contributor...”), and the Martin Bohn response was gratifying. CSA Member But back to the coffee. The Associate Professor brew is good, the pastries are Department of Crop Science tasty, but more importantly, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, exchanges between the born engineer (my colleague Tony Grift) and the German-born plant breeder (me) are always engaging. I look forward to this part of my daily routine. Tony and I delve into the news of the day, discuss scientific prob-lems, and ask ourselves why others haven’t thought of the brilliant solu-tions that we are coming up with! Our views often differ, but it’s those dif-ferences that make our conversations so thought-provoking for me. Germans, like me, are not known for our optimism, but I trust human ingenuity to solve the challenges we face. Science constantly extends the boundaries of the known universe, and we increasingly understand how life on this planet is organized and how it functions. We might not be able to feed the population of 2050 using the tools of today, but we will make discoveries that pave the way to future food security. Tony isn’t convinced. His confidence in scientific progress is not strong enough, given the enormity of the problem. “It will be impossible to produce enough food to feed nine billion people by 2050,” he tells me. As he writes in his accompanying foreword, the world economy is hooked on oil, a finite resource that humans have already exploited beyond its peak. We know that the oil is running out, but we ignore it. Given the pro-jected population increase and the rising demand for food, the coming End of Oil will have severe consequences. To gain more understanding about the problem of feeding the world in 2050, we asked scientists, engineers, economists, architects, and jour-nalists—people at the forefront of research and reporting on this issue— S for their ideas and advice. As the responses came in, they revealed the real complexity of this challenge, and I wondered whether the world has ever successfully addressed such a pressing need on such a huge scale. In 2000, the United Nations defined eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which include eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, promoting gender equality, empowering women, and developing a global partnership for development, among other goals. The non-binding Millennium Declaration was signed by 189 UN member states, who expressed their intention to aggressively work toward these goals using measurable targets within a timeframe of 15 years. The recently released 2014 progress report notes that several of the MDG targets have been met. These include the reduction of extreme poverty by 50%; saving millions of lives by successfully fighting HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis; providing improved drinking water for more than 2.3 billion people; and promoting gender equality by elim-inating disparities between boys and girls in primary school enrollment. However, critics question the success of the MDG program, as progress toward many other targets has been insufficient. In particular, sub-Saharan Africa seems to be disconnected from any positive development. The problems we face are significant: too many people live in poverty, global climate change is really happening, and the world’s popu-lation is steadily increasing. It may seem that the size of the solution must match the size of the challenge, but that isn’t entirely true. Global prob-lems can have local solutions. Here is an uplifting example: Neema Urassa, a village-based agricul-tural advisor in the Kiteto district of Tanzania, has improved the lives of hundreds of local farmers by supplying them with improved maize seed and new information on crop management ( It’s simple!—better seed and a few changes to the way maize is traditionally grown in the region have had a dramatic impact. Truphosa Losioki, one of the local farmers, was skeptical about har-vesting more maize with the new farming practices. But she tested the system on a small plot and, based on the results, decided to make the investment of buying the improved seed. She planted the seed on 10 acres and harvested 138 bags—a record yield, considering that the previous average yield was just 30 bags on the same 10 acres. She sold 100 bags on the market and commented, “I intend to grow maize this way on many more acres of land, in order to complete my house and send my children to Dodoma University.” Good seed, and some good information about how best to use it, changed this family’s future, empowered a woman, and led the way to edu-cating her children. Imagine what great things can be accomplished if we put into action all the ideas from our contributors in these special issues of Resource and CSA News . Maybe I’m an optimist after all . Top photos (l to r) © Kenishirotie, Luis Tejo, and Romdersen|Dreamstime and by K e i t h W e l l e r , courtesy of USDA-ARS. RESOURCE November/December 2014 5

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